To my son Trent,

I’m writing this as I watch you sleep by the pool. Your hair is now too long, and you are sprawled across that chaise lounge. I realized, as I was writing another article, that we have not spoken more than five words since you came home.

There are quite a number of things going through my head since you started high school: I mocked you for playing golf instead of working on the school newspaper. I encouraged you not to fall behind socially. I yelled at you for almost leaving the house with five o’clock shadow.

Even your clothing I complained about. Your pants were too short. You always clashed your ties with your socks (maybe I should have gotten you that color blind test). I told you not to wear that scarf because I thought you looked gay. At my worst, I ridiculed you for forgetting your tie at my journalist’s ceremony.

And the day you came home from boarding school, I kept it up. We met after you Ubered home at two in the afternoon, crunching through the snow with your bags dragging. You had stood on the front porch with your lovely hazel hair dyed blond because of some lacrosse team tradition. I told you that you looked unbecoming and troubled. You of all people should have known not to do something like that.

You won’t be soon to forget the moment we locked eyes in the kitchen. There was a blank stare, and I knew you were defeated. You weren’t that smiling though deferential child who’d hug me at my desk anymore.

All I could do was say you seemed to be doing well in school. And now, as I sit here watching you, I feel shame and longing. All I ever wanted was the best for you. But instead of praising what you did right, I forced out the parts I didn’t like. Now I can scarcely see what I love.

But there is good in you. You went to a new school after nearly failing out of the preparatory school we paid so much for. The love you show for your sister is more than I could ever have given her — you can hug, kiss, and tell her the details of your life then reciprocate.

So now you’re home and I can’t for the life of me say something nice. I hope you’ll never understand this feeling with your own children. Maybe by Christmas Eve, I’ll know the right present to give you, the right words that show how I have not let go of you yet.

You are a teen who has made mistakes in your life, yet I’ve only criticized your idiosyncrasies and ignored you in your time of need. I’ve forgotten the child in you, the one who still curls up when he sleeps, the one who still thinks the world of his father, and the one who has never criticized me, your mother. Maybe you can change if we go easier on you.

— Lana Conrad 
Dated December 2016

NOTES to myself: In the style of FATHER FORGETS. Do not forget to submit this to Sloane in the morning!!! Could make for a sentimental holiday piece. Don’t let Pookie know you’ve been drinking or smoking again.